I can’t really say that I discovered Boards of Canada’s first album Music Has the Right to Children(MHTRTC) more so than it discovered me. I remember clearly in Spring of 2000 coming back from lunch one day and finding the CD placed squarely on my desk at work. It was a small office – about 15 people yet apparently no one fessed-up. After the initial listen (with headphones – which I highly recommend), an entirely new world of music opened up. I had been familiar with electronic-based music but BofC’s approach (which I now know was/is rooted in work by Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and other pioneers in ambient compositions) was something that I had not heard before.
The mysterious cover with its washed out imagery of faceless parents and kids circa 1970s, gives more than a hint of the hazy and ominous yet sometimes eerily cheerful analog-synth tracks enclosed within. Released in 1998, the duo Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin from the Northern coast of Scotland had previously released several EPs, so they had developed a signature sound and style, and they took that sound to a new level creating what is considered a landmark recording spawning countless copycats and effectively establishing a sub-genre of ambient music.
For those of us older than say 4o or so, we can all remember watching film strips in class with the Pavlovian “dings” heard from the cassette or record that was playing in the background to signal forwarding the strip the to the next frame. The name “Boards of Canada” is inspired from those documentary films specifically from the National Film Board of Canada, which produced the educational filmstrips in the 60′s and 70′s. This music subtly conjures up, from our distant memories, those grainy images and fuzzy background music that serve as a backdrop for themes of childhood and nature and the tension between innocence and its loss as children inevitably experience the “real world”.
The album has a mix of short vignettes that melt into longer substantive pieces that range from dark brooding, almost creepy – “Eagle In Your Mind” to the trippy and somewhat medicated cheer of “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” or “Aquarius”. “Olson” is a brilliant short track that elicits specific imagery for me every time I hear it… I leave it to you to have your own experience.
The combination of hip-hop beats, analog and digital samples and keyboards creates a rich, evocative otherworldly soundscapes that I’ve not tired of listening to repeatedly for almost a decade.
When asked by my son what kind of music BofC had made on this album, I’ve described it as background music for a movie about the future that was made before we were born. This stops the questioning but doesn’t provide a real answer – which is the way it should be. Music this ethereal and magical shouldn’t be neatly categorized.
I love this album.
Click here to get it: Music Has the Right to Children
As a bonus… although not off of the album MHTRTC, this track “In a Beautiful Place in the Country” epitomizes everything about BoC that I cherish… haunting, beautiful and slightly disturbing – the one line of lyric in the song (which is rare in their music) is actually from a recorded interview with Amo Bishop Roden – the wife of a leader from the Branch Davidians (the cult founded by David Koresh whose camp was burned to the ground in the infamous FBI raid in Waco, TX) talking about their camp and inviting people to “come out to live in a religious community in a beautiful place in the country”. Lush, dreamy, weird. Beautiful.